Mumbai: The government on Tuesday appointed Dinesh Kumar Khara as State Bank of India (SBI) chairman as Rajnish Kumar stepped down at the end of his three-year tenure.
The Banks Board Bureau (BBB) had recommended that managing director Khara be made the next chairman. The bureau, which suggests names for the government to accept for senior management roles in public sector banks, had also kept another managing director, Challa Sreenivasulu Setty, as the candidate on the reserve list.
The 59-year-old banker had completed his masters in business administration from the Faculty of Management Studies Delhi and is a post-graduate in commerce. He is also a certified associate of the Indian Institute of Banking and Finance. Khara joined SBI as probationary officer in 1984 and has experience in all facets of commercial banking such as retail credit, deposit mobilization, international banking operations, and branch management.
Khara is also credited with successfully completing the merger of SBI with its five associate banks and Bhartiya Mahila Bank. Prior to being appointed as the managing director of SBI, Khara was the chief executive of SBI Funds Management Pvt Limited (SBIMF).
The new chairman takes over at a critical juncture when the banking sector, like most other sectors, is busy battling the fallout of covid-19. A Reserve Bank of India (RBI) scheme to restructure loans for retail borrowers as well as businesses is being implemented even as the Supreme Court hears a petition on waiver of compound interest between April and September.
Under Kumar, SBI’s advances grew from ₹18.55 trillion to ₹23.47 trillion and its bad loan ratio shrank from 10.35% to 5.44%. Having served in various roles at the bank for nearly four decades, Kumar was a managing director for retail assets prior to becoming the chairman in October 2017.
Last year, Kumar was also appointed chairman of Indian Banks’ Association (IBA), a lobby group for the sector. Following the coronavirus outbreak, the association pushed for government-guaranteed loans to small businesses, a proposal that was eventually accepted. RBI also met the association’s demand for a debt recast window to provide easier repayment norms to companies and individuals affected by the pandemic.
Kumar was widely seen as someone who can get the job done and provide quick turnaround time. The bank, under his leadership, was instrumental in bringing together other lenders and taking control of Yes Bank Ltd in March this year, when the private lender was running short of funds.
Also widely known is Kumar’s penchant for digital banking and using it to transform the way the institution functions. Customer service at SBI branches leaves a lot to be desired and Kumar tried to resolve this with his zealous push of the bank’s mobile app, Yono, which has more than 27 million registered users.
In an interview to newspaper Mint in December 2017, Kumar had said that his biggest strength lies in his ability to make quick decisions, instead of the glacial pace that the Indian public sector is often associated with. “My biggest strength is decision making. I don’t sit on papers. There is no grey area when it comes to decision making. It’s either black or white. I must say Yes or No. One wrong decision is better than indecision any day, as the cost of indecision is too much,” he said.